Sparassidae (formerly Heteropodidae) is a family of spiders known as huntsman spiders because of their speed and mode of hunting. They also are called giant crab spiders because of their size and appearance. Larger species sometimes are referred to as wood spiders, because of their preference for woody places (forest, mine shafts, woodpiles, wooden shacks). In southern Africa the genusPalystes are known as rain spiders or lizard-eating spiders.
Sparassids are eight-eyed spiders. The eyes appear in two largely forward-facing rows of four on the anterior aspect of the prosoma. Many species grow very large – in Laos, Heteropoda maximamales attain a legspan of 250–300 mm.
Like most spiders apart from the Uloboridae and some Liphistiidae and Holarchaeidae, Sparassidae use venom to immobilise prey and to assist in digestion. They have been known to inflict defensive bites, but are not widely regarded as dangerous to healthy humans. Huntsman spiders are widely considered beneficial because they feed on insect pests such as cockroaches.